The recent results from a lab experiment, whose findings appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, have shown that coronavirus in cats can be transmitted from an infected regardless of no visible symptoms of the infection such as sneezing, coughing, or other signs.
Prior to the experiment, a number of studies have highlighted how the coronavirus infection can impact a number of animals including common household cats. However, no study has yet shown that the virus can transmit from cats to humans.
Now, the researchers in the new study have discovered that SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus responsible for causing COVID-19, can spread from one infected cat to multiple others without any visible symptoms.
To reach this conclusion, the team took the SARS-CoV-2 virus from an infected human and exposed three cats to it in a lab setting. Soon after the exposure, the virus was also diagnosed in the three cats.
Then, three more cats were kept and housed with the ones that had already been infected with SARs-CoV-2. In a time period of five days, all of the cats were detected with COVID-19.
The lead investigator of the study, Peter Halfmann from the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin–Madison commented on the findings of the study, saying ‘There was no sneezing, no coughing, they never had a high body temperature or lost any weight,’
He further added that this shows that a usual pet owner would not have known about the coronavirus infection in a house cat since none of the conventionally known symptoms were visible possibly until the infection had reached a chronic stage.
These findings show that more research is required on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from animals to humans. If the virus can transfer from one infected cat to another, there is a possibility that it may even transmit to humans.
Read also: New Updates in Coronavirus Treatment
However, until there is no scientific evidence to show that the infection can indeed spread via household pets, there is no reason to abandon pets or display any harsh behaviors towards any animals in general.
In addition, The American Veterinary Medical Association has specifically stated that the experiment showed that the virus transmitted only after the cats were intentionally exposed to the virus in a lab setting.
Therefore, there is no evidence to show that cats or other animals can contract the coronavirus infection in the first place just like humans do.
According to Halfmann, until there is further investigation into the matter and actual proof to show that animals can play a role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, people can simply avoid the minimal risk by practicing good hygiene and also take similar preventive measures for their cats or any other pets.
Any pets should also be quarantined and not allowed to interact with any visitors from outdoors. Furthermore, maintaining pets’ hygiene is also important. Till now, there have been a few cases reported of coronavirus in cats.
However, the researchers confirmed that the cats had contracted the virus from their infected owners. The instructions from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention state that there is a ‘low risk’ of the virus transmitting from pets to humans.
Halfmann says pet owners should not be as worried about COVID-19 as the greater worry is for pet houses and shelters where one infected animal could infect all others.